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  • Writer's pictureEric Dahl

Big Shoes to Fill

Big shoes to fill is an interesting statement about filling the void left behind by a manager, staffer or family member before you. The line struck me this week as August 1st came and went and it would have been my father’s seventy eighth birthday. This past year I made a commitment to myself to stop becoming so melancholy during the month of February, when he had passed, and instead celebrate his birth and the time I had with him. In my life and career, I have taken on roles and responsibilities that were far beyond my capability, but in most of these situations I was also left with very little choice but to embrace it. The biggest, and hardest, lesson I have learned from these situations is that it is impossible to fill someone else’s shoes. This fact remains true whether their foot is smaller, wider, more narrow or larger than your foot can accommodate. I wonder if this phrase evolved not only because we are stepping into a strangers shoe, but also the footprint that they have left behind and we will leave as well. Becoming a home owner and the man of the house at 19 was jarring, especially since I didn’t fully grasp finances and house maintenance yet. Juggling these things, a full-time job and college courses made for a fast learning curve. I wouldn’t dare say that I filled my dad’s shoes but much like strong malt liquor I did get the job done and moved forward with life and new knowledge. My first management position was at 25 as I was heading up a Commercial Production Department that included myself and one other producer. I was not the most qualified person for the position but I did have a college degree in Mass Comm., six years in the biz, and a hunger to be creative and do a great job. Every promotion since has pushed me further and taught me more. Sometimes I have replaced a manager that was dismissed and other times they were promoted. In each case some of their staff and managers liked the way they accomplished certain matters and didn’t like others. It forces all of us to be a chameleon in that specific duties must always be accomplished in jobs and management but how do we make things better and bring some of ourselves into the role? I’m proud to say that as I have moved on to other TV markets over the years in several instances co-workers that I trained ended up filling my position. Some even expressed to me how they grew tired of hearing about how Eric did it and why can’t you do it more like he did. But in the end, each of these managers rose to the occasion and have exceeded what I accomplished in those markets and have left their own mark. An old friend of mine from back in Cape Girardeau once gave me this advice when I was so overwhelmed and didn’t think that I could rise to the occasion of a job “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Sometimes I must remind myself of this statement and it has served me well. In most cases of life and work I don’t believe many of us are fully prepared to fill someone else’s shoes because we don’t know all the responsibilities or challenges that are involved. But, if we truly knew of the full extent of these problems would we be afraid to take the leap? The only way any of us become better and rise to a situation is by taking on more than we should be able to handle and learning to do our best with it. We aren’t required to fill a shoe that is not ours, but to walk the best path that we can in the shoes that we own! If we make a daily effort to fill our own shoes as parents, spouses and workers to the best of our abilities and strengths then that should be enough and that will be the footprint we leave behind.

One size shoe does not fit all as we make our way!


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